Top Ten Jazz Piano Trio’s – an LJC Poll

piano bass drums

LJC-Lichael-Caine-fastshow30Poll Time. Nominations closed, now have your say.

There are a little over thirty jazz piano trio nominations, listed in alphabetical order by leader, and I’m giving you ten votes to award.

Your vote is really as much for the trio leader, as some trio memberships had variations and different permutations over time, for example the replacement of Scott La Faro by Eddie Gomez would still be considered  Bill Evans Trio.  I’ve listed the “main” historical membership, not every permutation, so lets not quibble over exact musicians listed. No doubt some one will, it’s the internet (rolls eyes)

I have not included Monk, because I think he is a special case and not a piano trio as such, though he recorded in trio format on occasions. You may disagree, but its my party. As usual, there will be some trios dear to someone’s heart that have been overlooked. You can’t please everyone, I’ve listed all those people have nominated. You can include another artist under the “Other” entry. As usual, you are welcome to make comments.

All ten votes have to be cast in one voting session before pushing the vote button,  as Poll Daddy, the WordPress voting platform, allows only one session per voter. Opportunity to vote expires in one week.

Go for it.

Come back frequently to check how your favourites are doing.

L-Jay Cee


 Tommy Flanagan, Wilbur Little, Elvin Jones, I knew that. You don’t understand the pressure of blogging leads to shortcuts to manage impossible workloads.

Anyway. Overseas (Over C’s) is a very fine album which I don’t have on account of its pricetag

Flanagan Overseas Popsike

and the relative scarcity of its Prestige come-back reissue on blue/trident label. However there are Japanese Metronome/ Teichiku pressings (later ’70s) fairly in abundance.


If my memory serves me right, Japan is overseas, isn’t it?  More to the point, any one with any experience of either of these editions? They seem to have different catalogue numbers, and no one owns up to an opinion. Anyone?


71 thoughts on “Top Ten Jazz Piano Trio’s – an LJC Poll

  1. Surprised nobody mentioned The Mal Waldron Trio. Impressions has to be one of the best jazz albums ever recorded.

  2. I’d like to add one i don’t see here. John Wright Trio (Bass– Wendell Roberts and Drums– Walter McCants). “South Side Sou” is such a great record.

  3. (Posted to TOP to escape the dreaded WordPress drainpipe)

    Gentlemen, I give you from the good DottorJazz, photographic evidence of an RVG etching on an Atlantic title, – Atlantic 1235 Phineas Newborn Here is Phineas, from 1956

    I have added a side-by-side comparison which I think confirms it is indeed by the master’s hand.


    • Interesting. My copy does not have the RVG etching – very surprised (and delighted!) to see that on an Atlantic pressing.

  4. (To avoid drainpipe view, I’m putting this right here at the top)

    Hi Bob, hi Andy.
    So Dottore seems to be right after all. Still the question remains: What was the location? If it was NYC as indicated on the back cover, then it wasn’t RVG’s own studio. Which would imply that he wasn’t regularly recording in stereo in mid-1956.

  5. LJC, it looks as if you have opened the proverbial can of worms–the list of piano trios can be endless, especially if you include groups from all eras, a point that Lucas and others have implied.
    So, let me enter a few names of my own:
    Brackeen-p, McBee-b, Hart-d
    Bryant-p, Bocku-b, Waits-d
    Hines-p, Tucker-b, Jackson-d
    Jarrett-p, Haden-b, Motian-d
    Hope-p, Ore-b, Philly Joe Jones-d
    J. P. Johnson-p, Higginbottom-b, Catlett-d
    M. McPartland-p, Torff-b, Hanna-d
    Previn-p, Mitchell-b, Manne-d
    Rowles-p, Brown-b, Smith-d
    Wilson-p, Shaw-b, Dahlander-d
    and others.

    • “Someone who knows what they are talking about” alert! A can of worms indeed
      It gets worse. An album I sidelined – picked up on a whim for a few pounds, played once and dismissed – I thought I would take some of my own advice and give it a spin with fresh ears.

      Wow, nice. Tommy Flanagan, George Mraz, Elvin Jones, “Eclypso” , a recording made in 1977 in New York for Enja, pressed in Germany on Enja yellow label.

      Whoa! A delight. What could I have been thinking about first time around? It sounds audio lovely, musically lovely. It could be the valves have made the difference, but it sounds pure gold. Flanagan is such a strong player: musical, rhythmic, interesting, masterful. The trio superb.

      I’m grasping for a new theory of musical judgement. One of the elements, and there are surely more, is that what you think of something may depend on what you listened to immediately before it. It happens with wine I know. Maybe I listened to something different before, this time around, something else.

    • and how about Russ Freeman, Joe Mondragon and Shelley Manne, not to speak of Richard Twardzik, Carson Smith and Peter Littman?

  6. To add to the mayhem here I just this very day picked up Phineas Newborn Jr The Newborne Touch with Leroy Vinnegar and Frank Butler (£10 at a stall at an open day for Manchester’s Victoria Baths – fun for all the family!). It appears to be a first UK stereo black label press on Vogue although there’s no Vogue on the label only on the cover. I didn’t have any Phineas in my collection but what a pianist! All the stranger that my copy seems virtually unplayed – faultless and superb audio. A vinyl fix of the highest order.

      • Nice catch Andy-2. Phineas was under-appreciated at the time, he is one heck of a player, marked down for being “too clever by half”. He can be a little exhausting as his energy and ingenuity is relentless, but you made a great score there. I dare say no-one else shuffling through Manchester’s Victoria Baths would have the vaguest idea who he was, or why they might want to listen to him. Great thing being an inside player in such circumstances, and a lot more satisfying than battling an array of Goldfinger-collectors fixated on screens from their private island, Cohen in hand.
        Well done.

        • All inside player knowledge gleaned from this website. The seller also had a lovely mint condition RVG stamped Savoy original, unfortunately it was a Herbie Mann record – I passed.

        • as you can see in previous post, my first vote was for Phineas. I’ve been recommending him to any pianist searcher the last 40 years at least. he is the son of Bud (40’s) and Horace (50’s), maybe crashed by his own fathers. look for Atlantic 1235, Here’s Phineas. I fell in love with that record many decades ago and still love and listen to it.

          • Thanks for mentioning this one, Doc. I think it must be among the earliest jazz LP’s both recorded and issued in stereo (as SD 1235). RVG was the recording engineer, but what was the location? Was RVG using stereo equipment in his own studio in mid-1956?

            • a brief research showed New York as recording location. RVG worked in Hackensack, NJ, until 1959 when he moved to Englewood Cliffs, NJ too. I don’t know if he worked, apart from live recordings, in other locations, which seems possible for a young man looking for better location/equipment than his parents’. maybe in 1956 he was booked by Atlantic and had the opportunity to record in stereo.

              • Extremely unlikely, dottore. I know of precious few RVG sessions recorded or mastered for Atlantic, neither of which – to my best knowledge and recollection – were done in multitrack technology. Just about 100% of all early Atlantic multitrack sessions were recorded by Tom Dowd, whose name should be revered and spoken in hushed tones as if he were Rudy Van Gelder’s siamese twin separated at birth. The RVG sessions recorded for Verve (all post-1959) were almost uniformly recorded and mastered (or only mastered, as in case of live recordings, such as Wynton Kelly-Wes Montgomery Life at Half-Note) in Englewood Cliffs. Likewise, his Savoy/Regent and Prestige sessions were all consistently recorded and mastered in the 10-mile radius from Hackensack, NJ

                It is possible – again, not likely – that some of the Impulse sessions – notably the West Coast material – were recorded elsewhere, but more likely even those sessions were recorded by others but engineered, mixed and/or mastered by RVG in Englewood Cliffs. I know for fact that he neither recorded nor mastered a number of Blue Note titles of the 1966-1970 vintage (two Blue Mitchell titles come to mind) and that he was generally reluctant to be involved in the West Coast scene for one reason or another.

                • HEAR HEAR! Tom Dowd was one of the great recording engineers. I love his work with Ornette for Atlantic. And a pioneer in stereo and multitrack. I was surprised to see that RvG also did work for Atlantic, this album is one of the few

                • what I can add is: on back cover RVG is credited as recording engineer and his initials are hand etched on vinyl. unlikely another engineer recorded in stereo leaving him mono only, but…I wasn’t there.

                  • RVG initials on an Atlantic release? Dottore, I would very much like to see that elusive animal. I know he was credited as a recording engineer on two or three mid-to-late ’50s Atlantic releases (Lee Konitz in Hi-Fi, Atlantic 1258 comes to mind) , but I can confidently state that I have never – ever – seen his imprimatur on any piece of Atlantic vinyl. Please feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

                    Atlantic’s late ’50s Jazz releases in stereo were uniformly and consistently recorded and engineered by Tom Dowd, sometimes in tandem with Phil Iehle, but mostly by himself (for example: Warne Marsh trio, Atlantic SD-1291, Coltrane’s Giant Steps, Atlantic SD-1311, or practically every single Big Joe Turner Atlantic stereo album), with a few notable exceptions of live recordings, such as The Real Lee Konitz , Atlantic SD-1273). The Man was for stereo what Rudy Van Gelder was for mono. In fact, I am doubtful that stereo, as a format, would even have survived the 1950s without Tom Dowd,

            • Hi Edward, Andy:

              I am responding to your lower comments here, as this is the only place where I can do so:

              Regarding RVG stamp in Atlantic’s trail-off vinyl: the Phineas Newborn Atlantic volume was clearly a one-off for Rudy Van Gelder and almost certainly the only such RVG-stamped specimen in the entire Atlantic discography (it is even doubtful that all copies of this album have RVG stamp — I checked my database, and I can report that out of two stereos and one mono copy I sold since 2003, not a single one actually had RVG stamp) There is NO DOUBT that Van Gelder was mastering other Atlantic titles (very few and far between, I reckon about four, possibly five), but NOT A SINGLE ONE IN STEREO. Nada, Zero. Zilch.

              As for where exactly his sessions for Atlantic were recorded, this remains a mystery. The accounts of Phineas Newborn volume being recorded in Atlantic’s NYC studios are, at best, apocryphal and decidedly uncorroborated. On the other hand, RVG’s (alleged) recording of MJQ volume (Fontessa) is said to have taken place in his Hackensack studio, which sounds rather improbable given that his Hackensack studio lacked multitrack technology at a time this MJQ set was recorded (1956).. Fontessa, alas, was subsequently remastered in true stereo, which means one of the following: either Van Gelder had a secret stereo equipment in his Hackensack studio in 1956, or the accounts of this MJQ title having been recorded in Hackensack were a major canard.

              My gut feeling is that these RVG Atlantic sessions were almost exclusively in NYC and then processed (equalized and mastered) in Hackensack. Because vast majority of these were subsequently (about two years after the fact) remastered for true stereo (almost certainly by Tom Dowd from the existing 3-track masters) and because RVG’s Hackensack studio, to the best of my knowledge, lacked multitrack equipment until roughly 1958, it is a fair assumption that original recordings were done by someone in NYC and that mixing, equalization and mastering was split between Dowd and Gelder depending on the format: stereo mastering by Dowd in NYC, mono by RVG in his studio in Hackensack.

              It is entirely possible – as Van Gelder himself was apt to do in the early days of Blue Note stereo – that these sessions were recorded concurrently in both multitrack and mono by using different sets of mikes for different formats. In this case, the engineering job on these RVG Atlantic sessions was probably all Van Gelder. However, the actual SOUND on these stereo releases is all Tom Dowd, zero Van Gelder, and I remain unconvinced that Van Gelder had ANY INVOLVEMENT in their stereo mastering whatsoever. If this was the case, one set of mikes (3-track) were fed to the Dowd input on the recording console, the other (mono) into Van Gelder’s.

              So, why, then, would Van Gelder be credited as chief recording and mastering engineer on Atlantic’s stereo releases which he had nothing to do with? The most plausible explanation is that ATLANTIC had prepared and stockpiled mono covers (economy of scale, anyone?) years before stereo releases were even contemplated, and RVG’s name and credits appears on “doctored” mono covers (i.e. mono covers with silk-screened “stereo” banners) essentially in error. In essence, for their stereo releases, Atlantic used marginally modified mono covers for which RVG credits were accurate. However, these credits were decidedly inaccurate for the stereo versions of the albums. Anyone who believes that, in the mid-’50s a recording label would put accuracy and integrity before cost-cutting needs a serious reality check. Enter yours truly!

              • Ummm, I agree with Bob. (Stage whisper: What did he say, exactly?)
                Personally, I believe in the “early days” of stereo, Van Gelder had no intention to create stereo field recordings. Two track was a tool with which to create a better mono compilation, giving the engineer more control over the final output. He moved to two track only recording to avoid having to splice two tapes of the same recording. Ipso loquat, kumquat. The likelihood of him moonlighting to create stereo for other labels but not his immediate employers stretches credulity. Cogito ergo sum, quod est demonstrandum. (No idea, I failed Latin).

                • Hi Andy:

                  This is what (I think) I said:

                  1. RVG did a negligible number of sessions for Atlantic
                  2. None of them were in stereo (or recorded BY HIM in stereo).
                  3. Realistically, none of them were recorded in his Hackensack studio, no matter what Atlantic covers may say,
                  4. Those sessions recorded in NYC were (probably) split between Dowd and Van Gelder, with mono masterings going to Van Gelder, stereos to Dowd.
                  5. RVG stamp in Atlantic wax is a one-of-a-kind deal and limited to a lone Atlantic title.

                  Penis bonus pax in domus!

                  Was that short, sharp and concise, or what?

              • Bob, very interesting info on the early Atlantic titles. Thank you for sharing. On the Riversides I mentioned, it is said, something like “recorded by Rudy van Gelder in Hackensack”. What do you conclude out of that?

                • I am not aware of any Riverside sessions either recorded or mastered by Van Gelder, (I will take your word that they do exist – Google search revealed a few such titles, almost all pre-1956). If he did, indeed, record for Riverside (and in Hackensack), this would be consistent with his mono work for labels other than Blue Note (Atlantic, Verve, Impulse), where he clearly preferred doing the mono jobs. Why would he record Riverside’s titles in Hackensack but Atlantic’s in New York? Probably because Atlantic was much bigger label at the time and had much better premises and equipment. Or he may have found commuting from Hackensack to Riverside’s 49th / 51th street studios easier than getting to Atlantic’s studio’s smack dab in the middle of congested NYC downtown (Atlantic studio was located just a block from from Carnegie Hall on 57th street: New York’s traffic jams don’t get any worse than there).

                  I checked a few of my archived Verve titles, and I can report that multiple Verve titles released concurrently in mono and stereo have his imprimatur in dead wax in mono versions, but are missing from the stereos. He clearly did not want to do stereos and felt uncomfortable with the format as late as 1967. History, I believe, vindicated his judgment – at least as far as Jazz is concerned. Other genres, I am not so sure about.

                  Needless to say, the original Atlantic studio does not exist anymore. It has been sold and resold by the NYC’s real estate mafia time and over again and was demolished a few decades ago. This eyesore monstrosity now stands in its place:


                  • Bob, the original Atlantic adress was 157 57th St, so you imply that they had a recording studio in their office, like Contemporary. That is interesting.
                    Many discographers put as place of recording NY, which includes the greater New York area, incl. the N.J. shore of the Hudson River.
                    When Riverside recorded in Hackensack, I imagine the same trip under the Hudson as described by Ira Gitler for the numerous Prestige sessions. I will check this p.m. my early Riversides for RvG etchings in the dead wax.
                    Re domus/domo, I do not think my professor of latin would accept wiki as a reliable source. I like your expression, it is short and meaningful, and it rimes. And to have a rime, the grammar was sacrified. The ablativus (or locativus) of the nominativus “domus” is domo. Ask your professor!

                  • Hi again Bob, I checked 12-201, 203, 209 and 214: no RvG in dead wax, but crédits to Rudy and recorded in Hackensack. The two Weston albums were pressed by AB, hand-etched in dead wax.

                    • HI Rudolf:

                      No surprise here, this is just as I suspected. Again, I have no recollection of ever seeing RVG stamp on ANY piece of Riverside vinyl. His credits on the covers I never disputed.

                      Riverside does not appear to have had their own studio. This is why their sessions recorded over the river (in Hackensack) makes sense.

          • Phineas Newborn was probably too talented for his own good. I will never understand why people with such unusual talent have so many issues connecting with regular folk. And I include the so called mainstream jazz community. Newborn was a fabulous piano player. Art Tatum and Oscar come to mind.

            I just went on eBay and picked up two of his records – both mono.

  7. My poll vote goes for Peterson/Brown/Thigpen, but Peterson with Sam Jones and Bobby Durham or Louis Hayes are terrific too. And of course don’t forget NHOP works with Oscar! Even when it was the “Oscar Peterson Trio” it sounded quite different. So many different musicians.

    Some other great trios:
    – The Three Sounds (Gene Harris / Andy Simpkins / Bill Dowdy)
    – Gene Harris / Ray Brown / Jeff Hamilton
    – Monty Alexander / John Clayton / Jeff Hamilton
    – Memphis Slim / Willie Dixon / Phillipe Combelle
    – Oliver Jones / Eric Lagacé / Jim Doxas
    – Taurey Butler / Eric Lagacé / Wali Muhammad
    – Peter Nero / George Duvivier / Bobby Rosengarden
    – Benny Green / Christian McBride / Carl Allen
    – Dan Nimmer / David Wong / Pete Van Nostrand
    – Count Basie / Ray Brown / Jimmie Smith
    – Erroll Garner / Eddie Calhoun / Denzil Best
    – Mike LeDonne / John Webber / Joe Fansworth
    – Dado Moroni / Pierre Boussaguet / Alvin Queen
    – Joey DeFrancesco (yes, Joey on piano!) / Christian McBride / Byron Landham
    And some local trios.
    – Enrique “Mono” Villegas / Jorge López Ruiz / Eduardo Casalla
    – Jorge Navarro / Jorge “Negro” González / Eduardo Casalla
    – Horacio Larumbe / Jorge “Negro” González / Junior Césari
    – Manuel Fraga / Pablo Motta / Oscar Giunta

  8. Yes – as posted below I have the Japanese pressing of this album -pretty sure it’s the same as above. My copy came in shrink and really is mint. The sonics are tremendously good – a very vibrant sound.

      • yes, the green cover is the original Prestige cover design. The black and white picture of Tommy on the cover to the left was taken décades later and is anachronistic and unfitting with so much better material at hand.
        The DIW version I had was licensed from Sweden using the original EP covers. Comments and production data were all by Swedish sounding names. Nothing Japanese but for the pressing. I made good money on this one when I sold it some five years ago. I reasoned that having the Prestige is good enough.
        Now regarding Andrew’s statement that Prestige re-issued Over ccccccccc in their historical series: I thought so too, but cannot find the album in my “Prestige Book” which covers issues up to # 7864. Anyone?

        • Prestige 7632, apparently (1969 release)

          I agree about the alternative cover of the Japan/ Metronome (GD-1-E), fairly horrid, though it is encountered much more frequently. I have found myself a copy of the Japanese with original CCCCCCC design (UXP-62-E). I noted the reference to a DIW Japan “Complete Overseas” but I was not at all happy with the last DIW I bought, so I have gone for the original cover version, should get it next week.

          I will be able to put Andy(2)’s estimation to the test (rubs hands in anticipation)

          • Thanks Andrew, yes the re-issue is in my Prestige book. I overlooked it with this strange picture of the J.J. Johnson quintet plus some journalists or well wishers.. The DIW issue had alternate takes, that is correct. No recollection of the actual sound. I hope your Japanese Overseas is going to be all right. It will, no doubt, be better than the re-channelled stereo of # 7632.

    was also re-issued in Japan on a label named something like DWI, or similar. The cover a fold-out reprinting the three original Swedish EP covers ( on 3 sides, the 4th being reserved for the liner notes ). The EP covers each had a different portrait picture of Tommy, in colour. You all know that the Prestige album is a re-issue of these Metronome EP’s, issued in Sweden only. Recorded in Stockholm when the J.J. Johnson quintet toured Western Europe.

  10. Unfortunately, this comment – my first as a long-time lurker – is going to come across as a cliche, but seriously: Isn’t the Jarrett “standards” trio in a class of its own, not only through longevity (which surely counts for something) but also range of music played, not to mention consistently high quality of recordings? I’m truly shocked that this trio is not garnering more votes. I’m of the view that this is one of those musical acts which can objectively (yes, objectively) measured as one of the greatest, i.e., deserving of a top 3 finish in any serious poll.

  11. This is probably a bit of an annoying comment, but to me it’s all about the records.For instance Tommy Flanagan’s Over Cs is not with the two players mentioned here but with Wilbur Little and Elvin Jones but it’s one of my favourites. There was too much interchanging for me to identify particular working trios I like out of these guys.

  12. I added Wynton Kelly. He, like most of the piano players of the period did some trio sessions that were really nice to my ears. I would have also added Sonny Clark, one of my favorite players of the period, but another blogger beat me to it I see.

    Hey LJC, can you allow a rating option in your polls? Maybe to complicated, but just a thought.

  13. No intent to quibble, LJC, but the typical Phineas (not Phineus, BTW) Newborn Trio lineup – the “main” historical membership, as you say – did not include Roy Haynes. It did include Louis Hayes, however. (“We Three” by Haynes & Newborn is still a great record.)

    • That was my initial shock. What? No Sonny Clark?

      He has not one but TWO trios worth mentioning:

      • Sonny Clark – Paul Chambers – Philly Joe Jones (Blue Note)


      • Sonny Clark – Max Roach – George Duvivier (Time)

      The omission of Bley-Peacock-Motian and McCoy Tyner-Roy Haynes-Henry Grimes trios is truly unforgivable: 25 lashes with a dry noodle for our Beloved Webmaster, subito. And then another 2 hours of corner time.

      Other honorary mentions:

      Art Tatum – Red Callender – Jo Jones.

      Horace Silver – Ramey or Russel or Heath – Art Blakey

      Dave Brubeck Trio (1952-53)

  14. Oh my, so many excellent line-ups to choose between. I think all my favourites are in the list so I’m going to need to get a large coffee and come back to this. Or maybe a bottle of red this evening…

  15. A good poll topic — if only to remind me that there are lots of piano trios I have nothing by. I would love a copy of Riley’s THE DAY WILL COME. Even the CD is o/p. A scandal.

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